Washington — Congress is stepping up the pressure over water pollution around a class of chemicals used in fluoropolymer manufacturing, with the Jan. 23 formation of a bipartisan task force that aims to push for stronger action.
At a news conference to launch the Congressional PFAS Task Force, many of the members of Congress who joined said they wanted to press the Environmental Protection Agency to set enforceable standards around per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
"We speak with one voice on legislation, on funding, on best practices and on holding the administration accountable, mainly the EPA," said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), one of two co-chairs.
He noted that EPA currently has an advisory level of 70 parts per trillion in drinking water for some PFAS chemicals but other government agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control, have recommended a level less than 20 ppt.
Some states are looking at setting their own legally enforceable mandatory standards for PFAS chemicals in drinking water at significantly lower levels than EPA's advisory standard.
"If it goes from advisory to mandatory, that's where liability kicks in, both civil liability and criminal liability, which is important for enforcement and holding people's feet to the fire," Fitzpatrick said.
One of the PFAS chemicals the task force will look at is perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which in the past had been a manufacturing aide in fluoropolymer production and today is at the center of water pollution concerns around some plastics factories. PFAS chemicals have been used in many applications, including firefighting foams and coatings for paper packaging.
The other co-chair of the group, Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), said the 20 member task force is bipartisan, reflecting that concern cuts across party lines. He said some in Congress believe EPA has not moved fast enough after having a PFAS summit in May.
"We believe that the EPA should be moving forward for an enforceable standard for PFAS. We're not waiting. We'll have our own legislation," Kildee said. "Speaking for myself, we would prefer the EPA be much more aggressive in tackling this issue."
Task force members said the House expects to have PFAS hearings soon.